The Heartland Province beats with larger-than-life attractions. From iconic waterfalls to rugged coastal playgrounds, Ontario never fails to serve up thrills.
Niagara Falls captivates visitors with its roaring waters. Stretching over 2,600 feet across, this massive curtain of water — comprising three separate waterfalls — plummets 167 feet into a whirlpool below, sending a huge cloud of mist into the air. While not the tallest waterfall in the world, Niagara Falls certainly ranks among the most well-known. This international phenomenon connects two namesake towns found in Ontario in Canada and New York in the United States. Visitors with passports often cross the arched Rainbow Bridge so that they can experience both sides of the falls.
Finding the Falls
Located on a sliver of land between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, the Niagara River dramatically rumbles over an escarpment, creating the iconic falls: On the Canadian side, Horseshoe Falls plunge into the Maid of the Mist Pool. On the United States side, American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls form their own curtains of water. Several highways come together at this popular spot, making it easy to travel between the U.S. and Canada. In Ontario, the Queen Elizabeth Way connects Niagara Falls with the largest nearby city, Toronto, 80 miles to the north. Visitors arriving in the popular summer season will find pleasant temperatures, with highs in the 70s and 80s.
Fun Around the Falls
Where Lake Ontario meets the Niagara River, you’ll find a hotbed of fishing activity. Epic salmon, trout and steelhead teem here, thanks to the high levels of oxygen in the water caused by the nearby falls and rapids. To the south, Lake Erie is not to be overlooked, as it’s home to record-setting bass. Paddlers enjoy these waters as well. Niagara-on-the-Lake is a particularly charming spot to access Lake Ontario and the Niagara River. Several marinas and boat launches line Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, providing access for boaters. The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority offers access for hunters on conservation lands across the peninsula. Waterfowl, turkey and small game are the primary wildlife that are found here.
There’s something romantic about a waterfall, and Niagara Falls is one of the most spectacular cascades on the planet thanks to its size and the sheer volume of water that crashes over the falls. Get a bird’s-eye view from 775 feet above with a trip up the Skylon Tower, which looms over the spectacle with a revolving restaurant at the tower’s top. During summer, fireworks fill the skies, and the glassy falls shimmer with color.
Chocolate Coffee Cake
Toronto hosts the International Chocolate Awards ever year. Recipe by the Good Sam Team.
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup butter
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 beaten egg
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Grated chocolate
Put first column of ingredients together like a pie crust; take out ⅔ cup and set aside. Add other ingredients to what is left. Place into grease oblong pan. Sprinkle top of cake with the ⅔ cup flour mixture previously set aside. Sprinkle generous layer of cinnamon and then a layer of grated chocolate. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.
To feel the power of the falls, take a cruise aboard the tour boat Hornblower or a Journey Behind the Falls tour. Put on your poncho and prepare to be amazed by the sight of 150,000 gallons of water crashing over the falls each second. To escape into the serenity of nature, head to the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve, featuring miles of trails through the woodlands above the river.
Falling for Festivals
After a cold, snowy winter, Niagara Falls springs to life with the annual Springlicious celebration, held in early June. Queen Street fills with vendors, live entertainment and colorful carnival rides. Though Ontario’s winter weather inhibits some agriculture, it gives the region a unique treat: icewine. As the crisp, frozen air begins to bite, local vineyards leave their grapes on the vines and later pluck them to make a sweet, luscious wine, found few places in the world. It’s so revered, Niagara Falls celebrates with an annual Icewine Festival, held in January. In the fall, traditional wines are celebrated at the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival, which features hundreds of events over the course of 18 days.
Queenston Heights Park
North of the falls, on the top of the Niagara Escarpment (a UNESCO world biosphere), Queenston Heights Park is the site of the 1812 Battle of Queenston Heights. A series of formal gardens sprawl in the shadow of a 185-foot column that commemorates Major General Sir Isaac Brock, “Savior of Upper Canada.” One of Canada’s great heroes of the War of 1812, Brock was killed here by a gun shot; his remains are interred at the monument’s base along with his Lieutenant-Colonel, John Macdonell.
More Museums and Monuments
For more history, follow the Niagara Heritage Trail, which runs 33 miles along the Niagara River between Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake, connecting several historic sites. Built by the British in 1764, Fort Erie was later the site of the bloodiest battle in Canadian history during the War of 1812. Today, this story is shared through educational displays, fort tours and live reenactments. Canada’s oldest museum is also found in the region. What started as a collection of taxidermy animals in 1827 has now become the Niagara Falls History Museum, featuring displays about the War of 1812 and the fascinating history of the falls and the daredevils who have tried to conquer them.
Colorful homes and grand brick beauties dating to the 1700-1800s line the streets of Niagara-on-the-Lake. This charming village, bordered by both Lake Ontario and the Niagara River, is simply steeped with character and romance. Listen for the clip-clop of horses’ hooves as horse-drawn carriages glide under the majestic shade trees. The vibrancy of the floral-lined sidewalks is matched only by the liveliness of the wares sold in cozy shops, bakeries and cafés. Continue onward to Niagara’s Wine Country, a region marked by fields of grapes and welcoming wineries. From quaint houses to gleaming glass structures, you’ll find diverse tasting rooms to match the diverse wines filling the cellars.
Wine and Farm to Table Dining
The Niagara Falls wine region adds to the dining options available in the area’s burgeoning culinary scene. Glasses of delicious, locally sourced vintages accompany meals at restaurants that are renowned for their farm-to-table menus.
Cuisine From Around the World
International cuisine is commonplace in Niagara Falls, and options range from fresh seafood specialties to spicy Thai and Caribbean. Family-style restaurants are also on hand, along with casual dining in local pubs and grills. For a view of Niagara Falls with your meal, try a dinner cruise on an old-fashioned riverboat by signing on with Grand Sunset Cruises. The Niagara Belle sails the Lower Niagara river from the opening of the Niagara Gorge to Lake Ontario.
Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens
To immerse yourself in the area’s flora, Niagara Parks’ 99-acre Botanical Gardens is well worth a visit. North of town, on the scenic Niagara Parkway, the gardens were established in 1936. During the summer, horse and carriage rides are offered through the kaleidoscopic gardens, which brim with perennials, rhododendrons, azaleas, a formal parterre garden, herb and vegetable gardens, and a rose garden with over 2,400 roses. The garden’s signature attraction is a 12-meter diameter Floral Clock comprising more than 25,000 plants. But what draws most visitors is the acclaimed Butterfly Conservatory, where 2,000 fluttering insects (with more than 50 international species), including swallowtails, fritillaries and luminous blue Morphos.
For the Birds
At Bird Kingdom, located just a short walk from Horseshoe Falls, visitors enjoy encounters with wild animals. Guests can learn about the world of exotic plants, animals, birds and reptiles. A gift shop offers a variety of plush toys. The experience culminates with an entry into the world’s largest aviary, home to a 40-foot waterfall, living jungle and free-flying exotic birds.
Walk the Footsteps of Soldiers
Tours of the battlefield outline the history behind the combat and include a jaunt to the top of the hillside for superb panoramic views. With picnic pavilions, tennis courts, a children’s playground and splash pool, and the highly praised Queenston Heights Restaurant, the park makes for a great half-day excursion.
Whirlpool Adventure Course
Unveiled in 2016, the Whirlpool Adventure Course shakes up Niagara’s old-school image with a pulse-racing series of log ladders, rope swings, tightrope obstacles and ziplines suspended high above the Niagara gorge. On the Canadian side, and not for the faint of heart, the Mistrider is a 2,200 foot, white-knuckle zipline that jettisons four people at a time for some 670 meters towards the Horseshoe Falls at speeds approaching 65 miles per hour. There’s a viewing platform with exhilarating views of Horseshoe Falls at the bottom.
More Fun With Water
Another major attraction in the area for family fun is Marineland, where visitors can marvel at the amazing performances by sea lions, dolphins and walruses. Educational exhibits shed light on the planet’s delicate marine ecosystem. The Fallsview Indoor Waterpark is home to 16 waterslides, a giant wave pool and Beach House Rain Fortress. The Americana Waterpark Resort and Spa offers the whole family its Waves Indoor Waterpark, with features that include water slides up to three stories high, a wave pool and a retractable glass roof.
Prince Edward County
Occupying a peninsula that juts off the north shore of Lake Ontario, Prince Edward County is a scenic getaway for travelers seeking an escape into a rustic setting. Sandbanks Provincial Park in the southwest is the county’s natural highlight, with soaring cliffs and wide, sandy beaches that are perfect for lake swimming. Several acclaimed wineries dot the 405-square-mile region, and award-winning cheesemakers have put the town on the foodie map. Visitors can sample the town’s bounty in Picton, where restaurants, galleries and museums form the nucleus of the county.
Located on Picton Bay on the eastern shore, Picton is a wonderful place to stroll, with a picturesque harbor and marina overlooked by lush green spaces. One of the few remaining art deco movie houses in Ontario, the Regent Theatre first opened its doors in 1918 and continues to show films.
More than 50 shipwrecks have been found in the waters surrounding Prince Edward County, and the Mariners Park Museum, built around a lighthouse south of Picton in Port Milford, has become the repository for the treasures discovered during initial diving expeditions. Fascinating artifacts and relics tell the story of the region’s prohibition-era rumrunners.
Described by locals as “Ontario’s Camelot,” Prince Edward County’s nutrient-rich soil yields bountiful harvests. Visitors can tour lots of wineries, along with distilleries and cider and beer producers. Prince Edward County is a Designated Viticultural Area, with lots of pinot noir and chardonnay. Local wineries of note include Domaine Darius, Half Moon Bay Winery and Cape Vineyards, and there are plenty of area operators offering wine-related tours (and safe driving services) for those who want to explore the surrounding vineyards. Make a day out of your visit to the Waupoos Winery, on the shore of Lake Ontario, with a petting zoo and chocolatier on-site. Prince Edward County is home to the largest number of wineries outside of Niagara, which dot the twisted lanes of the popular Taste Trail.
Follow the Arts
Renowned for its rich cultural heritage, Prince Edward County has no shortage of artistic flair. The Arts Trail takes art lovers through the countryside lined with an eclectic mix of modern galleries to rustic barn studios.
Small Pond, Big Creativity
One of the most popular stops, the Small Pond Arts features work by local landscape and portrait artist Milé Murtanovski. Throughout the county, tradition and modernity coalesce with county fairs, art festivals, wine tastings, street dances, summer festivals and even an Innovation Centre.
Gallivant On Land
Cloaked in mystery, the Lake on the Mountain is one of Ontario’s natural wonders and a great curiosity. Sitting more than 200 feet above Lake Ontario’s Bay of Quinte, the turquoise lake, with a constant flow of fresh, clean water with no apparent source, defies all geological and geographical logic; the most generally accepted theory is that it is a collapsed doline, an odd feature found in areas with a limestone foundation. The lake’s scenic views of Picton Bay provide a dramatic backdrop for recreational activities, including hiking and cycling within the namesake park. Sandbanks Provincial Park is home to the world’s largest baymouth barrier dune formation.
A number of walking trails traverse the dune and wetland habitats and afford excellent bird-watching; the park is a bird migration hot spot in spring and fall. The 1.5-mile moderately rated Sandbanks Dunes Trail meanders through fragile dune habitat and skirts several pannes, rare wetland habitats that support myriad wildlife species and unusual flora.
Point Petre Wildlife Conservation Area, an exceptional area for bird-watching, features a long pebble beach where you can swim off flat limestone ledges. Sandbanks Provincial Park provides countless opportunities for on-the-water recreation with boating and fishing on the East and West Lake for yellow pickerel, smallmouth and largemouth bass, northern pike and various pan fish. Although there are no formal canoe routes at Sandbanks, the Outlet River is ideal for those just learning to canoe and who wish to explore the marsh habitat. Sandbanks is famous for its three expansive sandy beaches that are deemed among the best in Canada; Outlet and Sandbanks beaches have shallow waters and gradual drop-offs that are ideal for families, but beware that Dunes Beach has a steep drop-off and is not recommended for children.
Party in Prince Edward County
Famed nationwide for its superb sparkling wines, wine tasting is one of the county’s most popular activities. In May, Terroir on the Move is a showcase for the region’s acclaimed wineries, offering participants a passport to visit six participating wineries.
Throughout June and July, the Arts in the County festival is Eastern Ontario’s leading art exhibition, with more than 2,000 juried works of art by local artists. In August, the Prince Edward County Jazz Festival draws some of Canada’s leading jazz musicians to perform against the stunning backdrop of the region’s wine country.
For an insight into the region’s fascinating history, take a drive along the Loyalist Parkway (Highway 33), stretching 62 miles from Trenton, along Lake Ontario, to Kingston. The historic parkway retraces the steps of the British Loyalists who settled here after fleeing the Revolutionary War. One of Picton’s historic and natural treasures, Macaulay Heritage Park highlights local history through its collection of 19th-century buildings, including a carriage house, church and delightful heritage gardens. Learn the histories of early residents who thrived in the area.
Is the beach calling for you? Check out a lakeside town that has over seven miles of sand, stunning sunsets and warm summer temperatures. Discover endless windsurfing, waterskiing and swimming. Dip your toes in the sand and feel the breeze. As a bonus, this stunning beach is considered part of Canada’s No. 1 freshwater beach community. Pack your beach chairs; roll up your shirt sleeves and head on over to Sauble Beach on Lake Ontario in Canada.
Hot in Huron
Sauble Beach is located on the eastern shore of Lake Huron in the southern end of the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario. You can get there on Ontario Highway 10 outside of Toronto or take the coastal Ontario Highway 21, which connects with Interstate 94 in Detroit. This route follows the lakeshore the whole way to Sauble Beach, dishing out stunning scenery along the way. The beach’s location on the eastern shore of the lake means spectacular sunsets over the shimmering water is the norm. Bring your camera to the beach about an hour before the sun drops.
Hitting the Water
Of course, with all this sand, you can expect to find a lot of activities centered around the shore. Join in a beach volleyball game, or try your skill at windsurfing or waterskiing. Explore the Sauble River on kayak or paddleboard, or go fishing for rainbow trout and Chinook salmon in their spring and fall spawning runs. Paddle along the Rankin River Canoe Route, which is perfect for novices. Just a short drive away, Owen Sound, with its lively historic district, provides the amenities of an outdoorsy regional hub with even more boating opportunities.
Cool Beach Vibe
Sauble Beach locals tell visitors that the town hasn’t changed a lot since the 1950s and they like it that way. There is a casual, laid-back vibe in Sauble Beach that has brought generations of visitors to the area and keeps them coming back year after year. One other thing you may not expect to find in Sauble Beach is NASCAR. Yes, Sauble Beach is home to the Sauble Speedway and hosts high-speed NASCAR action.
While you’re here, make time to play 18 holes at one of the courses in town. If you brought your ATV instead of your clubs, then check out the mixed trails at the South Bruce Peninsula ATV Club. Take the kids to the rock-climbing wall or book a boat tour to the Fishing Islands, where visitors will find a First Nations Smokehouse and first European settlement in the area.
Bruce Peninsula National Park
Less than an hour’s drive from Sauble Beach, Bruce Peninsula National Park forms the core of UNESCO’s Niagara Escarpment World Biosphere Reserve. Opportunities for outdoor recreation abound with hiking, biking, swimming, canoeing and wildlife spotting amidst a pristine wilderness of craggy oyster gray cliffs, dense forests and gorgeous turquoise waters that feel more Caribbean than Canadian. This glorious park is famed for its superb hiking trails, which range in difficulty from novice to advanced and connect to the Bruce Trail, a wild 586-mile path that ends in Tobermory.
Flower Pot Hikes
The most popular (easy) hikes include the three-mile jaunt to Flowerpot Island — named for the 35-foot-tall wind-carved columns that resemble giant vases — and the 2-mile Georgian Bay Trail to Indian Head Cove, a small, secluded cove framed with giant boulders. It’s a perfect outdoor gym for kids. Bruce’s crowning jewel is Cyprus Lake Grotto, where crystalline waters in shades of blue and green and intricate cave structures lure travelers looking to revel in the area’s serene beauty.
For more adventurous types, Bruce Peninsula is also one of the best caving and spelunking areas in the country. Ancient holes and crevices that were carved out of the Niagara Escarpment more than 7,000 years ago during the last ice age are ripe for exploration. Greig’s Caves, the Grotto, Bruce’s Caves and a loop trail on Flowerpot Island are among the most popular.
At the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula, quaint Tobermory exudes an end-of-the-world aura (with a whiff of the eccentric), despite the growing numbers of tourists who use the town as a base for exploring the wild and beautiful lands of the Bruce Peninsula. Beyond the small town with its stores, bars, live music venues, waterside restaurants (the sunsets here are incredible) and hotels that dot Little Tub Harbor, Tobermory caters to active travelers who are always looking to raise the bar.
Unfathomable Marine Treasure
Nestled in Bruce Peninsula’s northern tip, the Fathom Five National Marine Park will pique your curiosity with 22 shipwrecks, many of which lie within reach of divers. From schooners to barges, this marine park encompasses some of the best-preserved sunken vessels in Canada’s history.
For More Information
Tourism Partnership of Niagara
Prince Edward County
Sauble Beach Tourism Office